Students participate in National Gandhi Day of Service

Mohandas K. Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

This Saturday hundreds of students across the U.S. helped make a change as a part of the fifth annual National Gandhi Day of Service [NGDOS], held in honor of one of the world’s greatest humanitarians.

This year, UM’s Indian Students Association [ISA], the Volunteer LINK and Habitat for Humanity were the student organizations that took part in this national movement, along with help from the Volunteer Services Center [VSC] and the Miami Non-Violence Project.

Naveen Bellam, ISA’s president, felt great about the increasing awareness.

“It was great to work with the VSC and the other student organizations to expand the day to make a larger impact on the local community,” Bellam said. “Being only the second year that ISA has coordinated the event, we were impressed with the interest and turnout.”

About 75 volunteers helped at four different sites around Miami, building a house for Habitat for Humanity, preparing seeds at a plant nursery and planting Saw Palmettos at American Littoral Society on Key Biscayne, playing games and entertaining residents at Greenbriar Rehab Center, and helping with the maintenance of a house in South Miami that belongs to a physically ill patient.

“This was a great opportunity to get out in the community and help your fellow man,” Aaron Carter, a participant in NGDOS, said. “That’s what the legacy of Gandhi is about.”

The first Gandhi Day of Service took place on Oct. 2, 1998 at the University of Michigan. It was organized by the Indian American Student Association, whose vision was to unify people through the common goal of serving communities in need.

The tremendous response received for Gandhi Day of Service led to its expansion in 1999.

The first national-level Gandhi Day of Service was a huge success, involving 20 universities and 2000 students nationwide. Over the past couple years, NGDOS has grown tremendously, and today, due to an increasing interest among universities, companies and other community organizations, it continues to expand at an even faster rate.

Last year, over 7000 volunteers from over 200 universities and organizations contributed over 25,000 hours of community service.

NGDOS is an initiative of the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow [SAALT]. This year, a new format was initiated at a national level to the day’s events.

Rather than working regionally every year, it was decided to spotlight eight cities as National Flagship Cities. As a National Flagship City, this city would receive international press coverage, notable speakers and sponsorships.

This year, the cities were Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Orlando.

Vivek Patel, the National Flagship Coordinator for this year, hopes that next year Miami can be one of the eight cities.

“We made an impact at each of the sites we volunteered at, and helped both individuals and communities at the same time,” Patel said. “I hope to see more University involvement in future years, especially if Miami becomes a Flagship City next year.”

Minal Ahson can be contacted at